I deal with a fairly high number of clients with depression and the symptoms that lead up to it and maintain it such as; stress, anxiety, insomnia, negative thinking and ruminating.
All these symptoms are part and parcel of daily life in lesser forms as we all experience them to some degree or other, yet when they are combined they become like a powerful magnetic force pulling you into depression.
It seems that this time of year is historically a time where a proportion of people feel depressed and there are a number of theories about this and this is a screen shot of a Google search for information on January Blues (and yes I know it’s into February already :-))
It’s incredible that this very quickly pulls up 245,000,000 results which leaves you wondering how this can actually come about and what makes people so depressed so early in a new year.
There are many reasons, some are personal to the individual and could be based around bereavement and a fairly common occurrence around christmas is the break up of a relationship, which can obviously lead to a period of grief, loss and a degree of depression.
Below are some of the most common reasons for feeling low in January/Feb and some suggestions as to how to kickstart your positivity and motivation to turn things round for yourself.
The festive season is over and it’s back to work – no wonder January can feel like the gloomiest month of the year.
Add to that crappy weather, Christmas debts and a few failed resolutions, and it’s no surprise that some of us can fell miserable and low.
The good news is it takes less effort than you think to look at things differently and lift your mood.
Here are the top six reasons you might be feeling the January blues – and what you can do about them.
1) Weight gain over Christmas
Studies have shown that we can gain as much as five to seven pounds over the Christmas week alone.
What can You Do About It?
Festive weight gain doesn’t have to be permanent, and we can put way too much pressure on ourselves, particularly over the festive period and we often indulge even though we feel guilty about it and think, “what the hell, it’s christmas, I’ll shift the weight in January.”
We tend to exercise less and eat more during this period so it’s not rocket science really. So by maintaining your normal exercise routine and not eating everything in front of you, and yes I’m as guilty as the next man, you can break even over the festive period.
If you do indulge over christmas, then in January follow a sensible healthy eating plan with exercise, most people can lose approximately 2lb per week – that’s nearly all your Christmas weight gain in three weeks.
Another top tip is, instead of a diet, focus on your portion control as overeating at Christmas and at all the parties either side of the big day, it’s easy to continue the habit of large meals and delicious deserts and, you can even throw this in the mix during the festivities to stop you feeling so stuffed at every meal.
Cut back to three smaller meals a day and two snacks equalling around 1500 calories per day (2000 calories if you’re a man). This obviously varies from person to person and how much exercise you do and the kind of exercise. You can get a benchmark for this by asking a trainer at your local gym to help you, or you can find loads of information on the internet for BMR (Basal Metabolic Rate) This won’t necessarily be 100% accurate, it will give you a good start though and help you plan more wisely.
If you’re desperate to lose the weight at a faster rate, try the following:
- cut out treats such as your morning coffee and muffin
- reduce sweet snacks to once a week
- limit alcohol because it restricts the number of calories that can be burned off.
2) General post-Christmas blues
We can all be like reluctant school kids at times and return to work with feelings of lethargy, misery and a lack of personal fulfilment.
What Can You Do About It?
If you’re already counting down the days until your summer holiday, plan more breaks into your work life. We generally spend enough bloody time there so space them out.
Try a weekend away or ‘staycationing’ – where you take leave, but enjoy time at home doing things you enjoy or just relaxing. Or why not use your annual leave for the odd spontaneous day off?
If your feelings of being fed up at work go deeper, I recommend taking a serious look at how you can improve your current role before you look for a new job. Sometimes having a chat with your manager/boss about how you can develop yourself, your role or a promotion can break the state you’re in, and your boss may be in a similar place and this could help them in the process too.
Ask yourself two questions:
- what can you do to make your existing job more interesting?
- what do you love most and what are your professional strengths?
The conventional wisdom of making a career change is to work out “what next?” and then make it happen – but change often happens the other way round. Make something happen at work first and then more permanent change will follow.
Ways to do this are to look at your past successes and what you’ve enjoyed doing, because these will guide you to changing the right areas of your work life.
3) New Year over-analysis
Self-reflection at this time of year can make us all focus on what’s wrong with our life, leading us to set unrealistic goals to become our ‘ideal’ person.
Small wonder, then, that a third of us lose our resolve to keep our resolutions within a week.
WHAT CAN YOU DO ABOUT IT?
Although self-improvement is important, going overboard can backfire.
To lift your morale and gain perspective, make a list of everything that is already great with your life, taking stock of all that you feel grateful for right now.
It’s healthy to feel motivated to make changes at the beginning of a New Year, and avoid the mistake of only focusing on what’s missing in your life. Instead, focus on the changes you want to bring about from a balanced and optimistic perspective.
As for mistakes – who hasn’t made them? The smart thing to do is to grasp the lesson thoroughly and move on a little bit wiser for it.
Balance your drive for change with an appreciation of the here-and-now and your sense of disillusionment will fade away.
4) Family tension over Christmas
Feeling worn down by your family is normal after Christmas. Spending an extended amount of time cooped up with your relatives is a recipe for tension, no matter how well you usually get on.
WHAT CAN YOU DO ABOUT IT?
However, It’s important to realise that all families get on each other’s nerves at Christmas. It doesn’t mean you’re all dysfunctional or don’t love each other, it’s more that you’ve just spent too much time together.
It’s impotent though to recuperate by first resolving any holiday conflicts that have lingered on, because it’s these that will keep on making you feel miserable and stressed into January and beyond.
If you’ve had a big row over something, be the bigger person and back down. Why not consider an old-fashioned letter in the post to apologise or a thoughtful gift?
You will feel much happier if you try to build bridges rather than hang onto a grudge or sense of injustice.
Once you’ve found closure, forget what’s happened and schedule in some much-needed ‘me time’, remembering it’s a long time before you have to do it all again! A thought worth smiling about 🙂
5) Money worries after Christmas with a recession looming
You’ve spent too much at Christmas and you’re worried about your job because the UK economy is still a bit slow and more cuts promised by the government in 2014.
WHAT CAN YOU DO ABOUT IT?
The changing economic situation could actually be a good chance for everyone to get on top of their spending and debt.
Keep a note of your daily expenditure and focus on how you feel when you spend. This can help you adopt healthier habits that will then improve your financial situation. And, while you shouldn’t ignore your money problems, don’t dwell on your fears.
Ask yourself how you want your financial life to look this year and focus on how you’ll feel when you get the results you want.
By expecting positive results and working on changing your money habits for good, you can help change your financial future.
6) It’s cold and dark outside
Seasonal affective disorder (SAD), or the winter blues, is thought to affect up to two million people in the UK as the lack of natural sunlight leads us to feel depressed and lethargic.
WHAT CAN YOU DO ABOUT IT?
There is hope: the days are already getting longer, and January averages less rain and more hours of sunshine than December. although the last couple of months have been a bit of an exception, all right a lot of an exception for some parts of the UK.
Boost your mood by making a lunchtime walk a daily habit. Just 30 minutes of natural light, even weak winter sunlight, can be enough to make you feel happier and energised.
Don’t let the wintry weather put you off your exercise routine either. When it’s cold and dark outside, it is much more tempting to curl up on the sofa than to put on your tracksuit and brave the elements, and when you do get off your arse and do something, the exercise leaves you happier and more motivated filling you with positive feelings which will lift your mood and boost your motivation to do more.
Create a backup plan, so, if it is impossible to exercise outside due to crap weather conditions, you know what you can do as a good alternative. Swimming is a great option if it’s too rainy to run and you can always make use of your garage, like I do, and do a bodyweight circuit which needs absolutely no equipment.
I hope this post has been useful for you and helps bring a little clarity to why you may be feeling low and what you can do to shift it round.
Feel free to leave your thoughts and comments.
Have a brilliant week.